Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Pug Anxieties are Killing My Raiding Experience

First off I want to start by saying I have no advice to offer here.  I am dealing with an issue and writing about it helps me do so.  For those that do no know the meaning of anxiety in terms it fits for the game I will provide the definition so you can better understand what I am going through.

Anxiety - a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.

Basically being afraid to pug.  There is no more uncertain outcome than being grouped with a bunch of random people who you know nothing about.

I am completely certain I am not the only person that has experienced these feeling when pugging but I wasn't always this way.  And no, it was not bad pugs that made me start having this issue, I don't even know what triggered it.  I just have a very unreasonable fear of pugs for the last couple of years and it seems to keep getting worse.  It seems the more blizzard opens up pugging the more anxieties I have about it.  Even if I do join a pug and it goes well it does not make me feel less worried about the next pug I join, it makes me feel more worried.

These past few weeks with people on vacation for the holidays or other such stuff going on in life we have had some absences on the raid team.  One day without a tank, another down a healer, and then this week with 2 main tanks, 4 main healers, and 5 geared damage dealers I had the option of pugging 4 damage dealers or asking people to switch.

In each case I decided to switch to tank myself once, have someone else switch to healer another time, and then last night I had one healer switch to DPS and tried doing 2/3/6 which is really still over healing.  Each case we did not get the normal progression we should have on heroic.  One night we did 7 bosses, another 5 and then the last only 4.  We should be doing more than that in a raid night, we had done more than that, we can do more than that, but it is my fear of pugs that is making me rather have people switch than bring outsiders in to fill the gap even if I know filling the gap is more beneficial to the group as a whole.

Some might say I am trying to keep all gear in the guild, which is a good thing.  Some might say I am trying to push my group to be capable of doing more than just want they get used to which makes them better players, which is a good thing.  Some might say I am just trying to keep things moving instead of having to wait on pugs, which is a good thing.

But the truth is, I am just afraid to invite pugs to the group.  I would rather spend the night wiping on something we have been downing for months (which has happened) than bring in someone else and it is killing my enjoyment of raiding and I am pretty sure the spirit of the raiders as well.

One night a few weeks ago with two rookie tanks it took us 8 attempts to get iron reaver down.  A boss that should have been nothing of a challenge.  But instead of looking for two geared tanks I decided to have 2 people with 680ish alts tank it.  Admittedly it was a little low for unproven tanks in heroic, but we did manage even if we wiped more than a few times.

So you can think of it two ways, I challenged my group to do something and they did it.  Or I held them back because in the time it took us to down it, and the time I took out to explain the taunt switching and such to the tanks, we probably could have cleared the entire lower part.

I can maybe understand my anxieties about pugging alone because not doing it I only hurt myself, but I have a feeling if I keep this fear of pugging up I am going to do more damage to the guilds group than I have ever done to help them.

When I need people I should just go grab them.  There are a wealth of players out there looking to raid on even well geared mains, or very skilled players on undergeared alts.  Sure there will be some disruptive players, some toxic players, some loot drama that always come with pugs and other such unwelcome additions that come with it but there could also be bosses dying, loot being distributed and maybe even some new players finding their way to us on a regular basis because they like our style or we are a right fit for them and their progression.

There is good and bad to pugging, that is for sure, I know it.  So why do I fear it so?  Only a few short years ago I would start my own pugs, just me or just me and one guild mate and go in and do whatever I could in whatever was the current raid.  I had no qualms about it.  I made a lot of friends and it is where I built my reputation on my server as a good guy that was fun to play with.  But that was when pugging was server specific.  As they open up pugging more and more my anxieties seem to go up higher and higher about it.

Now I really am just the grumpy elf that would rather not kill something than invite a pug to his group because I have this unreasonable fear.

But the last couple of weeks I have been slowly trying to rectify the situation.  It is not working too well just yet, but it is working somewhat.

I am pugging alone, getting more comfortable in the pug environment again.  The other night before raid I did two pugs.  Not kidding, two pugs.  One was for one boss only oddly enough and it was even advertised that way but I still wanted to get into it to ease my way into interacting with others.  Also I figured it was perfect, a one boss raid means quick raid hopefully, so it made it the perfect raid for me.

I was doing this because I figure if I can get comfortable with pugging again maybe I can start inviting people into my groups, or better yet, meet someone in one of these groups that I could invite and it would feel more like a friend coming along instead of a pug.  Even if it is someone I only raided with once, I do not consider them really a pug.  I know them, even if it is just slightly.  For these pugs the fact I already killed the bosses meant nothing to me.  I wanted the interaction, that is what I was there for, to push myself to get over my anxieties.

First group was normal mano and archie.  One shot both.  The requirements to join were extremely reasonable at 705 item level.  The second group was heroic gorefiend only, the guy had killed all other bosses.  It was a one shot as well.  It had asked for 710 only and had the "know fight" tag which was simple and again very reasonable.

I then hit my anxiety driven wall, even after 2 pugs and 3 one shot kills you would think I would feel comfortable now, I am in the zone.  That was absolutely not the case.  I saw a heroic xhul that said it wanted 715 item level.  I have that so check.  It wanted 50K DPS minimum.  I have that and would probably do considerably more, so check.  It said know fight.  I know the fight, did it earlier this week even so check.

I had everything it asked for and more and I just could not bring myself to hit join group.  I clicked on the listing, even clicked on the join.  Started to type out my "know fight, can pull the numbers, am raid aware" line but never finished writing it.  I could not click the join and I don't know why.  I locked up.  The description seemed reasonable, no "raid leader is a jerk" indicators with the words he used.  I just could not do it.

And this was after two very successful pugs that had no jerks in them, went smooth as could be, and would be considered an outstandingly positive experience even by the harshest critics out there.

So I did not join that raid or any other for that matter.  I just wanted for an hour to see who showed up.  Saw a nice turn out and figured maybe we can do a couple upper heroic bosses that night and refused to pug again for that hour I was waiting because I was afraid to.

I need to figure out why I feel this overwhelming anxiety about pugs lately.  The main thing there is to do in the game right now is raid and I am afraid to pug.  It is bad enough if I ruin my own time by not being able to pug, but I do not wish to ruin the guilds time based on my own personal problems as well.

What caused this anxiety and how do I fix it, I need to figure that out on my own and I need to figure it out soon.  It is killing my enjoyment of raiding.


  1. I have posted about pugs more than once in response to previous articles you wrote, Grumpy. I think there's a few things going on all at once, though the issues that I see may or may not be applicable to you personally.

    First, our time is important to us. We all choose to do things in game, spend our time doing, because the doing offers us some net reward that was worth our time. Some people get it from role playing, some like myself from raiding, some from playing the auction house, some like yourself who enjoy a steady pace of work to achieve some known goal that you calculate as worth your time invested. (I think that's why you enjoy grinding so much...) In the end, its all the same calculus.

    Second, pug-life has changed dramatically over the last few years. We come from a social order where you needed a preset number of people in order to raid, 10 or 25. Without those magical numbers, the raid did not occur and so if someone was willing to come into your raid, there was more incentive to make it work. Of course there were horrible people, that doesn't change but the overall culture was more cooperational. The addition of flexible raid sizes neutralized a very significant incentive and mutual value that puggers provided to raid teams. Finally, the addition of in game cross realm group finding flooded the locale server community pool of puggers with an endless supply of nameless slot fillers. Because the supply is so large, there is no benefit for a team to invest work into a person, patience with a person, and so much less likely to be a mutual supportive cooperative effort that builds relationships. You very may well be feeling this on a subconscious level. Particularly because you state that you used to enjoy pugging because you get to meet people. Now, you are no longer meeting people, but summarily accepted to do a job or rejected arbitrarily because there's an endless supply of dps.

    Third, randomness can really suck! So, you've already said many times that RNG hates you on top of game systems moving in completely RNG based directions. Did it not occur to you, that the same problem is occurring in the new pug culture? You get in groups that pull once get the boss to 5% and had a bad RNG and took out a healer, suddenly the group disbands. Now you go on the hunt for another group, looking and reading for the non asshattery descriptions and requirements. You find one, apply and type your message, and summarily rejected. You whisper which is ignored. Then you....

    You have no prior relationships; no community based incentives to be treated with minimum standards. There are major cultural trends within that community that reduce the number and ease at finding those teams with similar standards of behavior. Before, you had a reasonable expectation that your time and effort would likely yield a reward or your goal of the pug. Grumpy, do you think you can correlate your willingness, enjoyment, and satisfaction with the pug process with the sense that it is worth your time? For a whole host of reasons and complex factors this is what it is coming down to me. Perhaps, like myself, the apprehension arises because you are holding on to wow with fingernails and worried that another series of bad experiences is going to push you farther away? I know I am concerned with doing pugs because I don't want to get up from the keyboard forced away from the computer in frustration, anger or disgust with the experience. Even if it goes well, sure I feel great right away, but the worry is still there for the next pug.

    Food for thought.

    1. You hit the nail on the head in so many places and I think really nailed why as pugging opens up I start to like it less.

      Oddly enough I am not a very social person. I can play solo and be just fine with that. But when I do group content having people I know with me matters, even if I don't actually know them. This is why the more open pugging gets the less I like it. There is no way to make connection, not like we used to. It is me using them and them using me and that just does not feel very fun. To me at least.

      I wonder if this is good for the game in the long run or not. Having more people to do things with is awesome, sure, but to have no real connection with any of them, is that really a good thing long term.

  2. I recently came back in game after taking a break (Reading your blog consistently was one of the factors that drew me back in) and decided to work on my flying achievement. My intention was to get flying to make it easier to level my shaman who I dearly missed healing on, so I hopped on my 100 pally, the first and only toon I max leveled at the beginning of the xpac before I unsubbed intitially, and got to work. I instantly re-fell in love with the game once again exploring where I had previously rushed through, searching for treasures, etc etc. Doing dailies in Tanaan for rep is, I think, alot of fun, signing up for groups, getting tons of baleful gear to replace my very sad pre-existing stuff. Anyway, somewhere along the line I started healing on my pally , the only healing class I've never tried nor felt comfortable with despite being primarily a healer since wrath, but it seemed the groups I would join for dailies always seem to be lacking healing and it went so much smoother when I switched over. Areas were cleared instantly. Come to find out, pally healing is fun and amazing and it was something new to me that resparked my interest in the game. So of course what do I do? I start queing for dungeons.....Hell, Im an experienced healer. I'm no expert but I've held my own in raids. I've paid some dues so I figure how bad can it be. So I worked my way through a silver proving ground, took 3 times and was harder than I thought, lol but no worries. Got my gear together, did a little research on my spec, talents, rotations procs, etc etc and it was game on. I pug a heroic dungeon. and its a breeze. Everyone knows what they are doing and it flys by. I'm feeling good. I move to a time walker because I love BC material and get the dark portal and once again everything goes swimmingly. Everyone knows what they are doing and no one dies. Gerat, I think, this is fun, I'll do it again. I que once more and get Magisters Terrace and this is where it all falls apart. The tank is lost, the hunters pet is on permataunt, the 2 warriors are dpsing different targets or the tree's or each other , I don't know...its absolute madness and I just wasnt prepared. People are dying left and right, I'm running around like a chicken with my head cut off and trying to maintain composure and we manage to get through the first to bosses like that. We round the corner to those mobs full of casters and once again turn into the chimp exhibit. By this time I'm beside myself ready to enter the fetal position under my computer desk and I manage to get to close to a mob on the right and we get a double pull....great. Now this ones on me , the tank runs to some remote corner of the map and los's me, the dps all pick different targets and sure enough, I can t keep up. We wipe. Ugh...but not the end of the world. Then in the chat box I see a "Really?" followed by a "really" and then I am removed from the group. I couldn't help but take it personally and I couldn't even defend myself. I was foolish enough to think that pugs are always fair, even and understanding and the the random strangers I end up with will be the same. It is just not true. You gamble when you pug because there are no aptitude tests, background checks or applications to fill out. That for me that is the deterrent. Do I make mistakes? Absolutely. I dont expect things to be perfect, but I'm a pretty understanding person. I've run with some great groups of strangers. It's the rest of them that keep me from clicking join most nights. So I feel you on this one. It's tough, but last night I thought about it and I'm not gonna let the idiocy stop me. I'm pugging tonight even if it sends me to an early grave.

    1. Rest in P- I mean, suffer we-, I mean, good luck and have fun.

      j/k I'm sure it's not that bad.


    2. Goes to show you that you never know what you will like until you try. Glad you gave paladin healing a try and liked it. Must say I am surprised that my blog bought you back to the game because I am often accused of scaring people way. Perhaps you could see that my grumpiness was from a place of liking the game and not a place of disliking it. Still interesting to hear that.

      Proving grounds get harder with gear for some reason. At least for some classes. I did all the classes when I first hit 100 and was under the 610 minimum it scaled down to and had no problems, but I went in on my mage (for fun) to give gold a try at later gear levels and got destroyed. Seemed it was easier at lower item levels. Even below the lowest it goes.

      As horrible as that group sounds, that is really like a major crash course in healing. There is no way you can win, you will lose, but trying to heal that will really push you to the limits. I hate when I get groups like that. It still happens quite a lot, even more so with timewalkers because some of these people never saw the dungeons and do not realize they do not massively over gear them. So TW wipes do happen. The sad part is, they will always blame the healer or the tank when they go running off and make these messes. Sorry to hear you got the boot, but from what you described, as I said, it was a no win situation and all you can do it try your best to keep up and use it as a learning experience. Don't let the kick get you down, they were just looking for your to carry them and let them all attack different targets and take massive damage. With scaled gear, there are very few healers that would have ever been able to come close to doing it.

      Pugging can be a double edged sword. Great fun or pure nightmare. I just hate flipping that coin sometimes to see which side I end up with.

  3. Anon, Grumpy's former Guild Leader:

    My aversion to pugging grew in a perfect track to the ease of pugging that Blizzard implemented. The more tools they provided, the less interest I had in a pick-up group. In vanilla, yes, I did pick-up groups regularly. Sometimes I would assemble them but more often for the 10 man runs of the time, I would look for a certain few leaders assembling groups. These were folks who I knew by both reputation and personal experience to be competent leaders.

    Since Wrath, that type of group leader has been replaced with enough Looking For types of grouping that seeing a group hand assembled in chat no longer occurs. It is a lot faster, and sheer random chance of who you are grouped with means some of the runs will be fantastical, a wonder to behold and a treasure to recall. The price of those type of groups are the ones from hell.

    Sorry but I have been on hell runs and the prospect of paying that type of admission to the wonders of random pugging for an occasional good to fantastic group are not worth the costs to me in terms of time and patience and temper. As I no longer raid, the reasons for any consideration of pugging goes by the wayside rather quickly. There literally is no gain for me in pugging, so I don't (aside from an out in the wild random thing every now and again).

    1. The random nature of your group, like the random nature of gear this expansion, is nothing I like.

      I think blizzard would be better off if they focused more on building communities again instead of building ease.

  4. I've always hated pugging. It's mostly got to do with not knowing people. Even in guild, if I do a run with people I don't know, my anxiety builds up to alarming levels.

    In real life I have no problem talking to strangers. I'm a consultant, it's what I do.
    I suppose because, in real life, I can assume a certain civility, a certain respect.
    In a game, though, you never know what might happen in regards to that, people acting like jerks, even if not with me, make me REALLY uncomfortable.

    WoW community is really mixed, you never know what you get - what age your counterparts are, what education they have, what habits, nothing is predictable. Which means you can get jerks, people who don't respect your time, people who are illiterate to the point you can't understand what they are trying to say (in their native language), people who swear, people who get enjoyment by hurting others. In short, people I don't meet in real life. People that take away from my enjoyment. This MMO thing is a gamble and pugging more so.

    1. Seems like we are in the same situation. I deal with people all the time too, no issues, used to be in a band and played in front of others, even getting the occasional boo, no problems. So it is not like I am uncomfortable around people.

      I think you nailed it with saying how it is more a community thing. The community has just become so mixed, and maybe because of that, so toxic, it sometimes is something that makes you worry. Also you have no control over it. Like when I step into a raid I am the "huntard". Excuse me? You do not even know me. I just love wiping the floor with people like that and thinking to myself "whos the tard now". I know, rude, but at least I do not say it.